State of Science :: Hot Science
With the Grain: A closer look at the nutrient quality of grain, grain-based products, and the role of organic agriculture
Grains are often an important part of a healthy and nutritious diet. But not all grains or grain products are created equal. Whole grains provide many health benefits and are important in the prevention of chronic diseases. Increasing research has shown that many of the health benefits of whole grains come from not only the higher fiber content, but also their rich variety of vitamins, minerals and health promoting phytochemicals, many with antioxidant activity.
A Closer Look at What's in Our Daily Bread
Bread plays an important role in the overall consumption of grains, particularly whole grains. Today there is an increasing variety of organic, "natural," and conventional breadwhite, wheat, whole wheat, sprouted wheat, and gluten-free. Each with its own claim about freshness, taste, nutrition, and other benefits. But what's really in our daily bread? Does the type of bread you eat really make a difference? And in particular, how do organic bread ingredients differ from those in "natural" and conventional bread?
Analysis of Two NAS/NRC Reports
A comparative assessment is made of the findings, conclusions and recommendations in the 1989 NAS/NRC report Alternative Agriculture and the 2010 NAS/NRC report Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century.
Resveratrol Promotes Liver Health
The phytochemical resveratrol is abundant in red grapes and is known to promote health through many mechanisms. A new laboratory study has confirmed another -- resveratrol has been found to promote liver health in a mouse study.
Study Compares Conventional, rbST/rbGH Free, and Organic Milk
Monsanto-funded study of milk quality reaches some questionable conclusions.
Organic Milk and Meat Enhances the Nutritional Quality of Human Breast Milk
Consumption of organic milk and meat increases the levels of the dominant Conjugated Linoleic Acid in human breast milk. This benefit is traced back to increased reliance on pasture and forages on organic beef and dairy farms.
Pesticide Exposures Increase Risk of Gestational Diabetes
Occupational exposure to pesticides during the first trimester of pregnancy more than doubles the risk of gestational diabetes.
"Handbook of Organic Food Safety and Quality"
A 521-page book by scientists from around the world includes 23 up to date chapters on all aspects of the safety and quality of organic food.
Children of Farmworkers in North Carolina Heavily Exposed to Pesticides
A significant portion of the children of Latino farmworkers in North Carolina are exposed to a half-dozen or more pesticides in any given week, and almost none are exposure free.
Soil Quality from Long-term Organic Management Nearly Doubles Flavonoids in Organic Tomatoes
Organic management nearly doubled the concentrations of two health-promoting flavonoids in tomatoes a long-term study in California.
Scientists Estimate That Pesticides are Reducing Legume Crop Yields by ONE-THIRD Through Impaired Nitrogen Fixation
The impacts of pesticides on nitrogen fixation by Rhizobia bacteria is much greater than previously thought. An important new study links this impairment of signalling processes within plants, and between plants and soil bacteria, to pesticides and other soil contaminants.
Dicamba-Resistant Soybeans to the Rescue?
As weeds resistant to glyphosate (Roundup) spread across the country, Monsanto has developed a second GM herbicide-tolerant technology to address the problems caused by the first.
Hormone Growth Promoters Fed to Beef Cattle Linked to Adverse Impacts on Male Sexual Development
A remarkable new study establishes a link between maternal consumption of hormone-treated beef and semen concentrations among male offspring.
Daily Deficiencies in Nutrient Intake
The average person consumes inadequate levels of 2.9 essential nutrients on a daily basis, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Consumption of Fruit and Vegetable Juices May Reduce Risk of Alzheimer's Disease
Scientists find that fruit and vegetable juice consumption can reduce risk of Alzheimer's Disease.
Key Differences Found Between Organic and Conventional Red Wines
Organic wines are found to have higher levels of resveratrol and total antioxidants, and are less prone to contamination with mycotoxins.
Organic Grapes Contain Higher Levels of Latent Polyphenol Oxidase then Conventionally Grown Wine Grapes
Spanish scientists find that organic grapes have higher levels of phenolic compounds known to play a direct role in plant defense mechanisms and taste.
Weather Conditions Account for Higher Levels of Anthocyanins in Conventional Syrah Grapes Compared to Organically Grown
Hot weather is identified as the likely reason conventional syrah grapes were found to have higher levels of Anthocyanins than organic grapes.
Fertilizer Type Found to Affect the Growth and Antioxidants in Tomatoes, but Not Yields
Sources of crop nutrients often used by organic tomato farmers are found to increase antioxidant levels, reduce shoot biomass, and mainatin yields comparable to conventional systems.
Common Insecticide Causes Significant Neurological Deficits in Children
Prenatal exposures to a common insecticide are shown to cause developmental deficits in three-year old children.
Organic Farming Improves Soil Quality
Nine long-term trials show that after an average of 10 years organic farming increases soil organic matter content by about 14% compared to conventional farming.
Human Genome Sheds Light on Problems with Animal Cloning
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to soon announce approval of animal cloning for use in livestock agriculture, a decision that is bound to raise new scientific concerns and questions in the minds of many consumers.
Key Insecticides Disrupt Brain Development at Very Low Doses
Some pesticides can disrupt the development of the brain and nervous system at extremely low doses. A new study provides key insights into how and why.
Published Research on the Sources and Spread of E. coli 0157
There is a large body of science on pathogenic E. coli that will help trace the current outbreak to its source, or sources. Published research also points a clear path to how farming systems and food safety practices need to be changed in order to prevent similar episodes in the future. Here we provide a roadmap to the extensive literature on pathogenic strains of E. coli.
Organic Orchards Deliver Dual Benefits
Leaching of nitrate was significantly reduced in the organically managed block of apple trees in a long-term study of comparative environmental performance.
Pesticides All Too Common in Streams and Groundwater
A decade of research by the USGS finds that pesticides are present nearly year-round in almost all streams in farming areas.
A Predominantly Organic Diet Virtually Eliminates Children's Exposures to Two Common Insecticides
A landmark study confirms that serving children organic food can virtually eliminate exposure to two insecticides known to disrupt neurological development.
Higher Levels of Vitamin C and Lower Concentrations of Nitrogen Found in Organic Oranges
The search is underway for reliable and affordable tests to differentiate between organic and conventional foods. In the case of citrus, a new approach involving Vitamin C and nitrogen levels is showing more promise than comparative pesticide residue levels.
Antioxidants in Strawberries Reduce Oxidative Damage in the Brain and Can Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer's Disease
Because the body's natural antioxidant defense mechansims become less efficient as people grow older, brain cells and mental acutity inevitably suffer some degree of oxidative damage in the eldely. This is one of the major reasons why consumption of foods high in antioxidant content is vital to promote graceful aging.
Organic Diet Improves Indicators of Health in a Novel European Experiment
New methods are under development to test whether and to what extent a diet composed of organic food and/or animal feed improves animal health. Improved immune system function appears to be one of the most significant benefits of a predominatly organic diet.
Italian Scientists Develop Novel Approach to Compare the Safety of Organic and Conventional Foods
A new method has been developed to rigorously test the impact of organic and conventional food on human health, taking into account the presence of pesticide residues, mycotoxins, and different levels of health-promoting antioxidants and vitamins.
Cover Crops Trigger Unique Gene Expression Patterns That Promote Plant Health
The tools of biotechnology have proven useful in studying how plants respond to a common organic farming practice - the planting of crops in a hairy vetch (HV) mulch-based system. The authors of an important new study report "a distinct expression profile of gene transcripts and proteins..." that reflect beneficial changes in hormone signaling in plants grown using a hairy vetch mulch.
Scientists Identify Key Lipid-Lowering Ingredient in Soybeans
Consumption of soybeans improves cardiovascular health by helping to remove LDL (bad) cholesterol from the blood stream. For years scientists have looked for the active agent in soybeans responsible for this benefit. It has been found -- as has the mechanism through which it works.
Something Else Going On : The Health Benefits from Antioxidants in Produce Prove Superior to Benefits from Supplements
When it comes to promoting human health, new research shows there is "something else going on" when people consume whole foods, rich in antioxidants and minerals, in contrast to dietary supplements that provide comparable levels of nutrients.
Health Benefits of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Milk, most dairy products, beef, lamb, and pork are the major dietary sources of CLA -- "good" fats that can reduce fat storage in humans, inhibite tumor development, and promote sensitivity to insulin. CLA levels are often markedly elevated in milk produced on grass-based organic diary farms, compared to farms feeding cows high-energy grain-based rations.
Grass Flavonoid Shows Potential to Control a Common Grape Plant Disease
Plants produce flavonoids to defend against pests and other sources of stress. Many plant secondary metabolites also promote human health by scavenging free-radicals that can damage cells, trigger diseases, and accelerate aging.
Nutrient Decline Linked to the "Dilution" Effect
The levels of six nutrients have declined signifiantly in 43 crops since the 1950s, according to an important new study by Dr. Don Davis, University of Texas-Austin. Sorting out why is a top priority for The Organic Center and will point the way toward organic farming systems that maximize nutrient density, and hence nutritional value per serving of food and calorie consumed.
For more on nutrient decline, see the Don Davis presentation at the 2006 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science , as well as the other presentations made at the Organic Center-Tufts University sponsored symposium entitled "Undertanding and Nourishing the Roots of Food Quality."
New Science Supports Old Advice "Eat a Variety of Foods" and Highlights the Need to Increase Nutrient Density
Everyone has heard the advice "Eat a diverse diet," a recommendation that has been a part of government dietary guidelines for decades. But few studies have explored the relationship between dietary diversity and the adequacy of nutrient uptake. The few studies that have been done have reached different conclusions, in part because there is no standard definition, or way to measure, "dietary diversity."
Organic Catsup Found to Contain More Than 50% Higher Levels of the Beneficial Antioxidant Lycopene
USDA scientists found that organic brands of catsup contained 57 percent higher levels of the health-promoting antioxidant lycopene compared to six national brands. The team also found twice the level of antioxidant activity in an organic catsup brand compared to a brand sold in fast food restaurants and/or vending machines. On average the organic brands had about two-thirds higher total antioxidant capacity compared to the major national brands. The authors provide a "rule of thumb" to consumers - the deeper and darker the red color, the richer the catsup in antioxidants.
Reducing the Risk of Spina Bifida
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of spina bifida, but why? New research suggests that reduced intakes of iron, magnesium, and niacin may increase the risk of spina bifida. Organic farming has been shown to increase the concentrations of two of these essential nutrients, compared to conventional production systems.